SMF - Just Installed!

Advice - complex!

Started by NikD, December 11, 2023, 11:20:24 PM

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Hey everyone, I'm new to this forum and am looking for advice on  behalf of my son. He moved into a rental property with his fiance and child (they now have two children) in March 2020. All was well until May this year when the landlord messaged on WhatsApp to say that he and his wife were getting divorced and selling the house. He wanted to offer my son first refusal, but grossly over priced the property at 280k (it's worth 240k). My son was shocked and worried, and told the landlord he would engage with a mortgage broker, which he did, but wasn't able to borrow anywhere near the asking price. He informed the landlord of this, and advised him he would be approaching the council as at that time there were no rentals available locally. The landlord messaged him and said to hold fire, he would work something out and get back to my son. My son heard nothing more until October, when he received a text saying the landlord was getting estate agents in to value the house. This happened, and a couple of weeks later he received a text from the landlords wife saying they were selling at £255k and were serving them with a Section 21, but would 'as a measure of goodwill' extend their period until the end of January 2024, and said "your deposit is back in your account".  This of course put my son and his family in a state of panic and worry, and he approached the bank for a mortgage. He now has a MIP but there's nothing in his price range. He did contact the council again as he was fearful of becoming homeless as there were no rentals either. During a conversation with the housing officer, she asked him if he had ever received a certificate to say his deposit had been put into the deposit protection scheme. My son had never heard of it, nor had he had a certificate, and he was told that the Section 21 was null and void. The housing officer said she would contact the landlord to advise him the Section 21 was illegal, but didn't get a response from him. Then, yesterday, my son had a text from the landlord apologising for messing them around, and said he now had funds to buy his wife out of her share of the property, but wanted to offer my son the chance to stay there on a rent increased by £400pcm until Sept 2025!! Now, my son doesn't wish to stay there any longer than he needs to, and is desperate to buy, but of course these things take time. He would agree to a rent increase of around £100-150pcm as this would be in line with similar properties in the area, and just leave when they are able to buy. But, what we all wish to know is if the landlord won't agree to a lesser increase and serves another section 21, how can he do this when the deposit has already been paid back to my son by his wife, thus meaning there's still no deposit in the protection scheme? Would he have the right to ask for another deposit, to place in the scheme so he can serve another section 21?

Thank you for reading!


If the deposit had been returned when the section 21 was received, the Housing Officer is wrong and the section 21 is not invalid for that reason. It might be invalid for other reasons.

If the deposit has been returned, there's nothing to stop the landlord serving another section 21 either.

Your son could negotiate with the landlord about the rent. If the tenancy is periodic, the landlord can impose a new rent using a specific notice to your son. Your son could appeal to a rent tribunal, and if the rent is above the going rate in the area, that appeal should succeed. It's possible that the landlord doesn't know this.

Your son should definitely not rely one the council, however. Unless they are living in an unusual part of the country, council housing stock is almost non-existent and what there is is mostly much less appealing than what they're used to.

The section 21 notice is just the start of a process. Your son is entitled to stay in the property until the landlord takes legal action to regain possession. Which can take months and months (assuming they want to do that and their section 21 notice is valid). So there's no need to panic. This is a terrible time of the year to find a rental property (and to sell one), so I'd imagine waiting until after Christmas suits everyone.


Thanks for your response. On the Government website it states that a section 21 notice cannot ge used if the deposit was not put into the deposit protection scheme, which it was not. Yes its been returned, but without the property being inspected at all. It's all weird and very stressful. As there is no longer a deposit in possession of the landlord, can he still issue a Section 21?


Yes. Once the deposit has been returned to the tenant it, basically, doesn't exist anymore, so the government advice doesn't apply. I'd suggest this forum is a better source of information than the government web sites, which are fine for general research, but aren't able to offer specific advice. The same is true of Shelter and Citizens Advice, but they can be very busy. Other forums are also helpful - assuming you don't want to pay for legal advice from a solicitor.

The main thing to focus on is a) seeing if your son and the landlord can agree a rent figure that your son can afford (if only just) and the landlord can agree and b) a section 21 notice needs to be enforced by the landlord through the courts - your son can actually just ignore it until the landlord makes an actual possession claim. And it's possible that the landlord would prefer not to do that. So we go back to option a).


Thank you. Your advice is very helpful. My son, ideally, would like to stay in the property until they are able to buy somewhere, and is prepared to pay a bit more rent, up to what is usual for their property type anyway (three bed terrace with one bath and no parking). If he were prepared to pay what the landlord is suggesting, he'd move to a property with the same rent but would be in a three bed, 2 bath semi-detached house with driveway and garage! I spoke to him today and he's not even going to respond to the landlords WhatsApp until after Christmas, and then he will disagree with the proposed rent increase and will offer what other similar properties are renting for. He does think the landlord won't agree, and will serve another S21, and it's just knowing what his rights are really. My son is very honest, and plays everything by the book, and doesn't want to be awkward, but the landlord really has messed them about and caused so much stress.


That makes sense. I don't see what harm there is in making the landlord a counter offer now, but your son sounds like he knows what he's doing, so fair enough.

The only thing I can see as a possible issue, is that, as I pointed out before, if the deposit had been returned before the s21 notice was sent to your son, the council is wrong and the notice may not be invalid. If the deposit was returned after the first notice, there's no issue.

If the landlord is getting divorced, there's a reasonable chance they'll have to sell the property at some point to be able to settle the divorce. But it sounds like both the husband and wife are joint landlords, otherwise the wife couldn't have returned the deposit.

But if your son confirms that he's looking to buy somewhere, but it will be after Christmas, and will take some time (3 plus months for a basic purchase is normal) and will happily move out then, and, in the meantime will pay the market rent, there's not really any point the landlord(s) doing anything. They may as well accept the rent for a few more months and wait for your son to move out.


Thank you. I'm not sure that they're both landlords, but it's the man they usually deal with. It sounds like it's quite acrimonious, fair enough, but they have kept my son waiting for weeks this year (May to October, and October to now) for any sort of news, and the news has changed from 'we're selling' to 'let me work something out and get back to you' in May, then nothing until October and 'we're selling and you have until Jan 31st 2024' to this week 'I'm in a position to buy my wife out of her share of the house and would like you to stay as tenants for an extra £400pm'. They've kept my son hanging for months, which isn't fair when the roof over your head is being threatened, despite of course the Landlord being within his rights to do that. That's why my son isn't responding until after Christmas, simply to keep the landlord waiting. There's no chance the landlord will let the property at £1250 so its in his best interests to come down to a reasonable rent agreement. My son went self-employed in August 2022 as a Carpenter, and is doing really well, but not even having a full financial year on his books yet does affect what he can borrow, so ideally he wants to stay put until at least April, unless he can get a mortgage accepted beforehand. His fiance works very part time as a lunchtime assistant at a school, as they have a 2 year old, so her wages don't count in a mortgage application at the moment. They just need time, or luck mortgage wise (he can afford a mortgage, has never defaulted on rent and according to the bank is an A1 customer), and being messed about by a greedy landlord is not good.


This isn't really anything to do with landlord and tenant relationships, but one of the things I have specialised in is conflict resolution. And there's a point in most conflicts where one side decides that the other is being unreasonable and responds in kind, to teach them a lesson (that they can't be pushed around, or that they'll show them that we're not weak, or it'll help our negotiating position long term). And it's that point that tips the situation into an escalating problem. And, when you look back, that's when things stopped being easily resolvable. It's always the second punch that really starts the fight.

If you change perspective and accept that the "other side" might be experiencing a lot of change and other priorities, it's quite possible that this issue, which is huge for your son - it's his family home - is simply not that much of a priority for the couple getting a divorce and having to work out how their lives (and finances) are going to work going forward.

Taking a step forward, and suggesting an outcome that gives some certainty might actually work towards resolving the solution. If nothing else, being unhappy about how someone behaves and then responding by behaving the same doesn't really make a lot of sense.

If people are focussed on "winning" or "not losing" or "teaching them a lesson", they lose sight of the actual desired outcome, which is rarely to be better than someone else. People competing with each other find compromise difficult to accept.


I think JPK talks a lot of sense here. Nothing that you have written  (other than the excessive rent increase)  suggests that this is a nasty greedy landlord. He sounds like someone whose own life has been knocked sideways,  and he and his ex have had their own dramas.  He seems like an approachable person, and if he sees evidence that he will not be able to get this rent increase from anyone else, he may well compromise.

Casting him as some kind of villain is not fair, and won't help resolve matters. It is a fact that the only way one can be assured of a permanent roof is by buying your own house, or getting a council house. Thousands of landlords are selling up now, and I see no sign that the govt.has a plan to build new social housing. I bought some BTL's in order to give me some financial security. As time has gone on I have started to take some small pride in having helped others to live in an affordable home.

It' s great that your son has a thriving trade, and I feel sure that he and his family will not end up homeless.